April 22, 2022 -
June 2, 2022
La Balsa Arte Bogotá
Panoramic. The promise, La Balsa Arte Bogotá

"Yo no soy un hombre, soy un pueblo"
-Jorge Eliecer Gaitán

"La Promesa" (The Promise) is Alejandro Tobón's first exhibition at Balsa Arte, Bogotá. Upon entering the room, the visitor encounters an installation that enunciates the word 'people'. The discourse of the exhibition is built on the tension between the two words and the material from which the elements that make up the show are constructed: coffee stump wood.

The exhibition deserves to be considered in the light of his previous work, which has generally been based on wood sculpture. In it, with its fantastic constructions, he sings homage to the tradition of artisans, carpenters and cabinetmakers who transformed their craft and art during the 19th century.
Tobón has produced meticulous drawings and paintings whose purpose is to show the processes of construction of diverse objects as a game of instructions and assembly of formal elements. His sculptures evoke traditional crafts, while exalting the modern goal of autonomy, embodied in the DIY (do it yourself) ethic of self-sufficiency.

In "The Promise", the artist resumes his ecological approach with the use of materials specifically elaborated or found in different states of transformation: doors, turned table legs or moldings from different sources are transformed into impossible chairs or useless tools, elements that allude to the processes of construction and destruction. With this reference, it is clear that the dichotomy of the terms 'people' and 'promise' are associated both to the historical process of colonization and to the political discourse. What people are we talking about? And what promises?

The word people resonates in the evocation of the great Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, for whom his 'people' was the whole of Colombia. "The people are superior to their leaders". The people meant a great collective devoid of land and party, a good human mass, waiting for someone who could vindicate their aspirations. He was the promise. He was loved by his people.

In the history of Colombia coffee is a product and an agricultural activity fused with social and political processes. From 1780 onwards, the baldíos of the Central and Western mountain ranges were populated, with the consequent development of coffee production and the establishment of the arriería as a means of transportation. These events led to the recognition of the Sovereign State of Antioquia within the framework of the United States of Colombia. The regional economy developed along the lines of agricultural activity and the national economy was geared to a single export product. The crisis that marks the transition to the modern coffee period is characterized by the contradictions of two forms of production: the massive haciendas and the exploitation of plots of land by independent peasants. "With the political advent of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the succession of the landowners of the coffee generation, the large haciendas crumbled in the face of social demands for agrarian reform" (1).

Alejandro Tobon's sculptural objects evoke these thoughts. There is an absurdity in his useless 'tools'. There is nostalgia. We have escalated to unthinkable levels of violence and corruption; the chairs of power are unreachable for the people. Today we speak of murdered social leaders, perhaps in the name of the people. They still make promises to us. As if we were not capable of understanding history.

-Ana Patricia Gómez Jaramillo.
1. The Devil's Drink: Economic and Political History of Coffee in Colombia.

Selected images

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Plastic Artist from the Escuela Popular de Arte de Medellín and Master in Plastic Arts from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Winner of the II Public Work. Madera Viva, Medellín, Colombia (2013). He has been co-founder and director of art spaces in Medellin. His work has participated in different exhibitions, among the most outstanding are: Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá (2005) and Museum of Modern Art of Medellín (2017).

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